Walker Percy Wednesday 150


What if then even the erotic becomes devalued? What if it happens, as Paul Ricoeur put it, that, “at the same time that sexuality becomes insignificant, it becomes more imperative as a response to the disappointments experienced in other sectors of human life”?
What then? Does the self simply diminish, subside into apathy like laboratory animals deprived of sensory stimulation? Or does the demoniac spirit of the self, frustrated by the failure of Eros, turn in the end to the cold fury of Saturn?


Don’t you believe in love?
Yes, but the word has been polluted. Beware of people who go around talking about loving and caring.


World War II: Betty Grable, Anne Frank, Adolf Eichmann, Stalin; the subsidence of the erotic in favor of a rise in the dispassionate, abstract violence of ideology, Fascism, Nazism, Communism; war increasingly in the hands of technicians; the decency of Truman and Oppenheimer contrasted with the death of 100,000 women and children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Arendt’s banality of evil = the growing disparity between the monstrous violence of technology and the smallness of the technician-perpetrators; World War II as a transition period between the decline of the Christian era and the rise of the age of technology; 50,000,000 dead.


Then how do you account for the fact that with the appearance of man there also appeared for the first time in the Cosmos, as far as we know, language, mind, self, and consciousness, and almost immediately thereafter a train of disasters and triumphs which seem to have very little to do with adapting to an environment—such as organized warfare against himself, composing Don Giovanni, Charlie Manson, John Keats, suicide, joy, madness, murder, heroism, modern medicine, child abuse, loving care for the genetically malformed—and in recent years the appearance of the demoniac spirit of the erotic and the violent expressing itself in every conceivable variety of florid sexual behavior which has nothing to do with reproduction or survival of the species, and that with the very rise of science there has occurred the spectacular rise in technological violence, so that more men have been killed in this century than in all others put together—and that finally there should have come to pass the present state of affairs which surpass all belief, not merely that this very “matter” you speak of, which Democritus and Darwin and even Dalton and Boyle saw as peaceable little miniballs of atoms colliding and joining, is in fact possessed of an energy of such an order that one-quarter teaspoon will destroy Greater New York, but that this very secret and this very matter—and here the mind reels—should find itself in the hands of this selfsame demoniac autonomous self, itself a creature of science?